Week 12, Part 2: Blind Melon’s Rogers Stevens Pays Us a Visit

Posted: April 25, 2018 in Rock n Roll History Course at Delaware Valley University

Blind Melon. I was one of those nerds who wore out their 1992 debut record…digging songs like I Wonder, Paper Scratcher, and Deserted. I of course liked them more than the monster radio hit No Rain, but then again, I’m weird.

Some years later, I searched Youtube, trying to figure out how to play I Wonder and stumbled upon an interview where Blind Melon guitarist Rogers Stevens talked about the late singer, Shannon Hoon. I looked closer and noticed the Philadelphia skyline behind him. “That’s weird,” I thought. “Aren’t these guys from Mississippi?” Turns out Rogers, who grew up near Mississippi State University, is an attorney in Philadelphia. Following Shannon’s 1995 death, Rogers decided to ditch the music industry (not entirely as it turns out) and went to college. He attended Delaware County Community College (aka Delco to us locals), then Temple University (where he graduated summa cum laude), and then on to the University of Pennsylvania law school.

So I emailed him and asked if he would talk to my rock n roll history class and he graciously accepted.

I asked Rogers to give us a bit of his background. In brief, and I won’t be doing this justice, he grew up in a farming community near Mississippi State. After seeing Van Halen in 1984 (my first concert ever was Van Halen in 1980!), he decided to become a musician. So a few of his friends decided to head off to Los Angeles with no plan, not knowing anyone…not even having a place to stay. Initially, no one would rent to them because of their rather unkempt appearance and they spent more than a few nights sleeping in the car.

Eventually, though, Rogers and his crew came across Shannon, who was a good friend of Guns N Roses’ front man Axl Rose. Shannon’s voice and charisma soon became apparent and the band began to form. One student asked Rogers about the where the name Blind Melon came from. Rogers said they pulled it from a Cheech & Chong film. Perfect.

RS 2

Shannon’s connections with Axl helped a great deal, and Blind Melon soon had offers from multiple labels. The band’s eponymous debut album initially didn’t do much…it kind of languished for about a year before the release of No Rain, which turned the small time outfit into major rock stars.

A student asked Rogers what it was like to attain such massive fame so abruptly. He said they weren’t prepared for it. They were playing a series of small clubs when No Rain came out with that video, starring drummer Glen Graham’s sister as the bumblebee. One day, while staying in a hotel across from a venue Blind Melon was playing that night (forget the city), Rogers looked out the window and saw a line the wrapped around the venue several times. “What, is Bill Clinton in town?” he wondered. Turns out they were all there to see his band.

Students began asking Rogers questions and he sprung forth with some great stories, particularly about Shannon. He talked about the singer and Axl regularly getting into fist fights. Shannon was a an athlete and martial artist, so he could kick some major ass.

One time, while the band was in a bar in New Orleans, Shannon, for no particular reason, hurled a beer bottle at a mirror behind the bar. After the mirror shattered, the band wisely decided to exit the establishment in a hurry, with the police hot on their tales. Rogers remembers they were in pretty good shape, basically home free, when Shannon inexplicably stopped and punched a cop. His arrest apparently wasn’t all that unusual.

RS 1

I played Rogers a snippet of a couple Blind Melon tracks…but in particular the closing riffs to I Wonder and Paper Scratcher. Those are the kind of riffs I wait an entire song for. He said he wrote the former song and played the lead on the Scratcher riff.

One student asked Rogers what wisdom he would impart to his younger self. He said he would tell himself to be open to playing in front of anyone. Apparently at one point, Blind Melon was offered a chance to open for Bon Jovi in Australia. They turned it down because they hated Bon Jovi (ok, that instantly makes me like the Melon boys better.) In retrospect, Rogers felt that sort of standing on principle move was short-sighted. He thinks the band should have relished the opportunity to win over any audience, even if they didn’t like the headliner.

I played him a snippet of Soul One, my favorite track off of Blind Melon’s third album, Nico, released after Shannon’s death. Turns out it’s an early demo that Rogers wrote and he doesn’t care for at all. That happens sometimes. Fans like stuff the artists despise and vice-versa. (At least Steve Howe and I both favor Close to the Edge as our favorite Yes record.)

Blind Melon still exists and Rogers is about to embark on an American tour. Someone asked him how he manages to do that while maintaining his career as a law associate. He said it’s not easy, he doesn’t sleep much, but he manages to make it work.

In any event, the students and I were thrilled Rogers took the time to talk with us. I’m looking forward to seeing his band next month in Philly.

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